Meeting about ECoC Cities and Culture of Sustainability

On the 16th of May 2011, in Berlin, Germany, a meeting will take place, bringing European scholars and professionals together to brainstorm and discuss culture, sustainability and the attributes, requirements and traits of the so called ECoC Cities (European Capitals of Culture).
This meeting will be vital, as it will room fertile minds; taking a trans disciplinary form and stretching across borders, sharing and fusing knowledge and ideas together. Also, this meeting will discuss possible steps that could be taken, in terms of cultural interventions, and in more specifc terms of an action-research /action-philosophical project connecting partners within EcoC cities and outside, in academia, civil society, policy and business, around the theme of the EcoC city and culture of sustainability.

“The bold opening could be to say: can there be life-enhancing, creativity-serving, emergence-oriented practices in cities becoming ECoC title holders – and can these practices lead to a deeper understanding of the importance of central concepts such as complexity, sustensivity, and resilience/transformation, in the context of a learning ecology of culture in the city? And even more bold: can we enhance it, push it further, be part of the transformation?” – Oleg Koefoed

The central themes of the meeting will obviously be Culture and Sustainability. Both of these, however, can be perceived differently according to the dimensions in which they are contextualized. Social, cultural, environmental and economic sustainability all have different aims and objectives when held apart, but share an important aspect: to not compromise future generations, or rather, not to compromise future sustainabilities. Cultural mega-events like the EcoC title might be seen as an opportunity to highlight, develop, and nourish culture that helps us increase our eco-literacy in a wide understanding of the word.

At the same time, one of the tendencies in ECoC cities is the dependency and development of the “cultural class” or creative class of the city; this may lead to reflections on how, or if, this group is sustainable in any of the dimensions.

“What is interesting is that the activities in question (carried out by the cultural class) are always also symbolic and interpretive towards the world and often reflective towards their own practice as well. This leads then to a recurrent calling into question of the meaning of sustainability and its meaning related to the socio-ecological systems in general. Cultural practice is about making meaning, and the way it performs this is by explicating meaning in myriads of ways” (Koefoed).

Such “ways” will be exemplified and analyzed at the meeting, amongst other things. And more generally, what (and why and how) should these cultural practice produce – what should be the outcome, the formats, and the dynamics; on a micro and on a macro level? The ECoC cities could, with an optimistic eye, be perceived as work spaces, playgrounds for the development of long term sustainable cultural activities: “ECoC is an event that stretches over a long period and calls for organizing across a series of disciplines and institutions, thus allowing for some transdisciplinary experiences and ideas to emerge and solidify”(Koefoed). During the meeting that spans two days, the participants will go through presentations, workshops and discussions. The full schedule and list of participants can be found here. We hope that the meeting will generate new relations and a new kind of focus on EcoC and sustainability, and start to answer a question such as: How can the current strong focus on economy give space to a focus on cultures of sustainability that is not necessarily linked to economic growth, and what are then the alternative benefits of these cultures of sustainability?

Participation is still open for last-minute callers; otherwise, a small report can be obtained after the meeting, from The meeting is organized by Poiein kai Prattein and Cultura21.

By Oleg Koefoed

I am an action philosopher, living in Copenhagen, contact point for Cultura21 International in Denmark and head of Cultura21 Nordic. I work through artistic interventions, action-research and action--philosophy for raising awareness and understanding of the cultural dimensions of a sustainable world. I live in a shared house just outside the center of the city, with my wife and kids and the other family that we share the house with. I do a lot of volunteer and networking work in the art/culture/sustainability sector in Copenhagen, so feel free to contact me if you have questions or ideas about urbanity, sustainability, social entrepreneurship, art-research, etc.